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Ukraine war: Five things you need to know about the conflict from Monday

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP, Reuters
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shopping center burned after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk on 27 June 2922
Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shopping center burned after a rocket attack in Kremenchuk on 27 June 2922   -   Copyright  Ukrainian State Emergency Service via AP

1. Russian missiles hit shopping centre in central Ukraine with more than 1,000 people inside

Russian troops struck a shopping centre in Kremenchuk in the Poltava region with at least two missiles on Monday afternoon with over a thousand people inside, Ukrainian authorities claim.

At least 16 people were killed in the strike while around 60 were injured, according to the latest information available early on Tuesday morning.

Earlier, at least nine victims of the missile strike were said to be in critical condition. The total number of casualties is expected to grow further.

Footage and images from the scene show that the entire shopping centre was engulfed in the blaze, with emergency crews and passers-by trying to help the victims.

"The mall is on fire, firefighters are trying to extinguish the fire, the number of victims is impossible to imagine," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated on his Telegram account.

The strike on Kremenchuk, an important industrial city in central Ukraine and home to its biggest refinery, came a day after Russian missiles hit a residential area of the capital Kyiv.

2. Zelenskyy calls on G7 to help end war with Russia 'by the end of the year'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged G7 leaders "to do everything possible" to end the war in his country by the end of the year, G7 sources said.

Addressing their summit in Bavaria by video link, Ukraine's leader appealed directly to the leaders for more help for his country, and for "intensified sanctions" against Russia.

It came as G7 leaders pledged to continue to support Ukraine in the long term.

Zelenskyy "had a very strong message that we must do everything possible to try to end this war before the end of the year," the sources said. He also stressed the importance of "not lowering the pressure and continuing to sanction Russia massively, heavily".

The West has already adopted several packages of measures since the start of the Russian offensive on Ukraine on 24 February.

During his speech, the Ukrainian president "spoke of the harshness of winter" in Ukraine "where it is more difficult to fight".

"At the end of the year, we will enter a situation where positions will be frozen," the sources said.

According to a European official quoted by Reuters, Zelenskyy also called for anti-aircraft defence systems, security guarantees, as well as help to export grain from Ukraine and reconstruction aid.

3. Russia in drive to capture Lysychansk after taking control of Sievierodonetsk

Russian forces are engaged in renewed fighting on Monday to capture Lysychansk, the last major city still held by Ukrainian troops in eastern Luhansk province.

It comes after Moscow-backed separatists said they were advancing on multiple fronts.

Lysychansk's twin city of Sievierodonetsk, the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting, fell to pro-Russian forces on Saturday.

On Monday morning the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said Russian forces were using artillery to try to cut off Lysychansk from the south. Russian assault aircraft struck near the city, the military added.

It made no mention of a claim by a separatist official, reported by Russia's TASS news agency on Sunday, that Moscow's forces had entered Lysychansk from five directions and were isolating Ukrainian defenders. The claim could not be confirmed.

4. Russia might default on its foreign debt as von der Leyen says economy 'degrading slowly' due to sanctions

Russia has reportedly missed a Sunday night deadline to pay interest payments, raising the prospect that it might default on its foreign debt for the first time since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Such a move would further alienate the country from the global financial system amid its war in Ukraine.

Some Taiwanese holders of Russian Eurobonds have not received interest due on 27 May after a grace period expired on Sunday evening, two sources said. Moscow had been due to make $100 million (€94.6 million) in coupon payments on two Eurobonds.

But it could take time to confirm a debt default.

The Kremlin owes about €37.8 billion in foreign debt but has been shut out of the international financial system since its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Meanwhile, Russia's economy is "degrading slowly but surely" amid "more and more biting" sanctions, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has told Euronews.

"We see that the sanctions are more and more biting and grinding into the Russian economy. If you look at the different sectors we see that they are degrading slowly but surely because of the export controls," the European Commission president said on the sidelines of the G7 summit.

"So updates, technologies, anything you need, the goods you need to modernise, are not going to Russia anymore."

Von der Leyen also said that G7 countries agreed to explore a potential price cap on oil.

5. NATO to hike number of soldiers on high alert from 40,000 to 300,000

NATO will massively increase its rapid reaction troops from 40,000 to 300,000, says alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg.

He was speaking ahead of a key summit in Madrid later this week that will focus on the response to Russia's war in Ukraine.

It will also consider the bids of Sweden and Finland to join NATO, applications that are a direct result of Moscow's invasion.

Stoltenberg, NATO's secretary-general, said forces on the alliance's eastern flank would be reinforced.

Eight battlegroups have been created: based in Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria. 

They will be reinforced by "pre-designated" units from other alliance countries to operate in these countries where heavy armaments will have been pre-positioned, the NATO chief told a news conference in Brussels.

NATO will also use the summit to change its language on Russia which was still described in the alliance's last strategy from 2010 as a strategic partner.